You can actually invest in most securities yourself, without using the
services of a broker. But brokers offer convenient trading services
for buyers and sellers of corporate stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and
other securities. If you invest in these types of securities, you
will probably wish to establish an account with a brokerage firm.
Discount brokers are usually paid on a salaried basis while the brokers
at traditional brokerage firms are generally paid on a commissioned
basis. A salaried broker is less likely than a commissioned broker
to encourage frequent trades that are not in the investor's best
interest. For do-it-yourself investors, online brokerage accounts
are available, which charge a low fee per trade. Some brokers offer
more than one type of brokerage account.
Of course, your best defense in having a good investment experience is
choosing the right investment broker. Considering that investment
brokers are handling your money, it's important to choose one who will
help you navigate the world of securities, while helping you avoid
pitfalls and make a profit.
One of the first choices you'll have to make is whether you go with a
discount firm or a full-service broker. Going with a discount firm
means you will have online trading access and may even be able to speak
with a live broker by phone. If you are a savvy investor with some
experience, going the discount route is a cost-effective option.
However, a full-service firm will give you access to a personal advisor
who can help you balance your portfolio.
It's a good idea to compare the fees charged by different companies.
Commissions, maintenance fees, and margin rates, as well as inactivity
fees and incidental fees, are different types of fees charged by brokerage
firms. You'll also want to check whether the broker charges a fee on
no-load funds, and how high the money market account yield is compared to
those of other brokerages. If you are unable to determine the best
deal for you, you are in good company. Fee structures can be quite
bewildering, but a representative can help you with your choice.
Be sure to find out how much it costs to transfer money out of your
account, and whether you need to carry a minimum balance.
Be sure to consider what securities the investment brokerage firm offers,
because some brokers don't have a good selection of all the stocks, bonds,
and mutual funds you might be interested in. Some companies, for
example, don't allow the trading of bonds and options, while others boast
a wide array of fund choices. Be wary of any firm that steers you
toward loaded funds so that they get their fee, despite whether or not you
meet your investment goals.
InvestmentBrokers.us features a directory of selected investment brokers
and investment resources. Be sure to compare the brokers listed
below, and examine their entire fee schedules before establishing an
investment account with a particular broker.